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Mary L. Trump on Growing Up Gay in an 'Anti-Everything' Family

Mary Trump

In our digital cover story, the president's niece discusses her family's intolerance and questions why any LGBTQ+ person would support her uncle.

Editor's note: a previous version of this aricle mistakenly said that Mary's "father has had a devastating effect on friends and families." It has since been corrected to her "uncle." [Donald Trump]

Mary L. Trump -- and there's a reason that the "L" is in there -- has lived a very quiet existence for most of her life, but not behind the scenes. As a member of the Trump family, she saw and endured a lot. Most of it not good, and in some ways, what she saw and experienced has made her who she is today. And, that's how I arrived at thinking that Mary L. Trump was pretty normal. That's saying a lot for someone with the last name of Trump.

During the last few weeks, she's been everywhere and talking about one person: her uncle. As usual, he sucks all the air in the room. But there is a very genuine and very real person in his niece.

When her book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, came out, I was surprised to learn that she is gay. I think most of us were, and that's mainly because most of us probably had no idea who she was. When I Googled "Mary Trump," her grandmother's name popped up, so it took a second try to find the younger Mary.

In writing her book, Mary decided to take a bold risk that has certainly shed her anonymity, but not her normalcy. She wanted the truth to come out about her Uncle Donald. Not in the way of a John Bolton policy book, or a trashy tabloid story, or a revenge tome by an ex-wife. She wanted something more meaningful that told the real story of her family, and how and why that family created a monster. Her goal was to help us all realize that Uncle Donald is bad for all of us.

The woman I had the pleasure of speaking with is friendly, measured, polite, rational, and real -- nothing like her Uncle Donald. She's very sincere, and, like most of us, scared, which is why she had to tell us all that being terrified is the point, and we need to act quickly in order to be calm again. We need to listen to Mary L. Trump.

What I wanted to hear about from Mary was her experience as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, which is something she rarely talks about. And that's because like most of us, Mary has gone quietly about her way, living her life not as a gilded Trump, but as a suburban mom. Mary is not a firebrand, so I doubt we'll see her on a gay Pride float. Which I'm sure is probably fine with Mary. She's popped her head out to warn us all about her uncle, and once he is done, finished and finally gone -- and we all hope soon -- I suspect that Mary will feel that she has done her job, and go back to her discreet life. Or quietly help us all pick up the pieces.

That's what I'm hoping happens to Mary, because she deserves solitude, peace and comfort after all she's been through, and all she has been forced to relive since her uncle became president, with his demoralizing face and voice in her head every day.

We owe Mary L. Trump a great deal of thanks for sacrificing her privacy so that our lives can hopefully be better soon. What follows is our conversation.

John Casey: First, my sister's name is Mary, and so I love anyone named Mary.
Mary Trump: Except my grandmother, which is why I use my middle initial to distinguish us.

OK Mary L., are you happy you wrote the book?
It's been very gratifying, and I'm happy to do it, and I'm really happy to be talking to you. I'm thankful that the interviews now are a little more wide-ranging, which provides a bigger audience to hear my message, and which makes things more interesting.

I'm losing my voice a little bit, because there's been so much to talk about it.

Well, why don't we start with the obvious question, when did you realize you were gay?
To be honest, I don't know. There wasn't one moment. It was not something I was comfortable with, I know that, and there's no coming out stories.

I never shared any of this with my family. So being gay is something that kind of happened over time, and then it took much longer for me to be comfortable with the concept.

Even though homophobia wasn't really explicit in my family, growing up, no one talked about homosexuality one way or another. My family was so anti-everything, anything that was different from them. So, I just assumed they were antigay, and that was something they would not tolerate.

Was there anyone in your family you could turn to, even at some point?
No, I didn't have anyone. When I moved in with my then-partner, I never said anything to my family. I was in my 30s already, and they never had any interest in my personal life, so I figured, why bother?

Also, my grandmother would say homophobic things, and I figured she was in her 80s, so what was the point. It just didn't make any sense for me to tell anyone. At some point, I guess I made it clear that I was in a romantic relationship. But, I didn't confess, didn't ask permission. I just said this is how it is.

Was that a problem for you, not having any support from the family?
No, because I really didn't have such a close relationship with my family. My friends have been my family throughout my life.

I joke that I'm the "sole practitioner" in my family, since no one else is gay. Is there anyone else in the Trump family who is gay?
No, not on the Trump side.

In your book, you write that your grandmother said, "It was a disgrace they're letting that little faggot Elton John sing at [Princess Diana's] service," and that kept you from coming out. How did that comment make you feel?
It made me feel awful, mainly because I loved Elton John. I thought it was disgraceful given the context. The man lost someone he deeply loved in a tragic way, and he thought it was best to honor Diana by singing a tribute to her publicly.

The comment by my grandmother was so mean and small. It was not a good moment. As usual, I just ignored it and went on my way, but I knew then that I couldn't tell anyone I was gay.

Who was the first person in your family that you had a conversation with about being gay?
Well, it wasn't really [a] coming-out conversation. My mom, I don't remember when, drove up to my house where my ex-partner had moved in, and I said to my mom that we're in a relationship now, and that was it. I just left it there. She knew we were friends.

So, was your mom surprised, pissed, dismissive, fazed at all?
She probably was fazed a bit, but I didn't give her any space to react. I just said this is what it is and that was it.

We grew up in a homophobic world. Being gay was never spoken about. I mean, it was there sometimes. There were occasional comments about how gay people are. And then, on television or movies, how they were portrayed, so I got the message that it was wrong. And different. I wasn't trying to be an example.

What was it like with the family? Was there just an absurd amount of toxic masculinity where white, straight rich men had the final say?
Everyone in my family was misogynist and there was a clear double standard. But thinking back, I never saw it as toxic masculinity because the only two men that mattered in my family were Donald and my grandfather. So, there was a much bigger issue, and that was this toxic positivity that my grandfather pushed on so hard.

He believed in the power of positive thinking to such a degree that it wasn't positive at all. Because if you are required to think that everything was great all the time, that there was no room for mistakes, and that there was no suffering or pain or any emotion. It was severely damaging, but emotionally and psychologically. It's destructive.

And that's why Donald thinks everything is great all the time because admitting to any kind of pain or failure is a weakness punishable by death.

You have a Ph.D. as a psychologist. Did you undergo any therapy as a child or young adult about what you went through, and perhaps discuss being gay?
The first time I went to therapy was when I was five, and my mother thought that since my parents got divorced, I needed outside help.

I went to therapy for at least 10 years. It was a good thing. Because I had so much experience, I thought it might give me an advantage to go into that profession. I don't know where I'd be without therapy. And I started therapy again in 2017, apparently hearing my name and seeing Donald's face every day was a trigger. And again, it was extraordinarily helpful.

But I don't recall ever discussing anything about being gay or thinking that was a reason for therapy. It was just because of a tricky childhood. And lots of depression.

Did your uncle ever meet your partner or talk to you about being gay?
No, he never did. He never knew, but I'm sure he does now. I was supposed to get married years ago, and my partner and I had been planning a wedding in Maui for months. Then my grandfather got sick and died, and we had to postpone it. Nobody in the family knew all that was going on behind the scenes with my wedding, since it was all about my grandfather at that time.

My Aunt Mary and I reconnect[ed] about 10 years ago, and she considered herself a gay icon, I suppose. She had gay friends, and she was totally fine about me being gay, but I would have never known that growing up.

When you hear your uncle say "The gays love me," how does that make you feel?
You know, the same way I feel when he says, "Blacks love me." It's just absurd. What's worse that on some level, he's actually convinced himself that that is true. Anyone who takes that seriously should be discounted out of hand. Otherwise, it [is] just not worth paying it any attention.

The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, last week said that your uncle has a great record when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues. What do you think about that?
First of all, that woman hasn't told the truth since her very first appearance. From the moment she appeared, she started lying. I don't pay any attention to her. It's grotesque to me that the American taxpayer pays her salary, and all she does is lie to them.

I think gay people make him [Trump] uncomfortable with male homosexuality. He's like guys with no self-awareness. And trans people make him uncomfortable because he's uncomfortable with anyone that's different. And that includes differently-abled, different color of skin, and different beliefs.

I really don't think gay issues occupy any of his attention, but how McEnany could say that with a straight face, knowing that one of the very first things he did, without consulting anybody, was to kick trans people out of the armed services. It's disgusting.

He's not [an] ally of the gay community, or really any community for that matter. Donald doesn't have any concern or beliefs beyond his own self-interest. His enablers tell him to enact a certain policy, and he'll do it. He doesn't care.

What do you think about gay people who support your uncle?
I never understood something like the Log Cabin Republicans, but I think it's just a broader issue. There is a significant minority of people in this country who are comfortable voting against their own self-interest, whether it's their sexuality, race, or economic status. It's really astonishing.

And I think the argument is, "I might be gay, but I also have religious, beliefs, support a certain economic policy or I don't want to pay more taxes." And their arguments become more polarized. It makes no sense to me anymore. What he's doing to people in our situation. I mean, I could care less if I ever get married again, but we must be able to because marriage equality really matters. It's the same way I feel about women's choices. I absolutely insist that women have the absolute right to control their own bodies. I just don't get it why they would support him against their self-interests. It's selfishness and they separate themselves out by believing in him, and not in a good way.

I think your uncle has had a devastating effect on friends and families. It's impossible to support him without being a bigot, racist, or anti-LGBTQ+. Do you think he's exposing the worst in some people?
It's remarkable to me how different the 2016 election was. I'm from a very Republican family and live in a predominantly Republican community. It didn't matter if my friends or neighbors were Republican and I was a Democrat. The suburban Republicans are usually pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, and say they aren't racist, but in a knee-jerk way that a lot of white people are.

These people seem to be one-issue voters. Maybe it's because they didn't want to pay taxes, so they stuck with the Republican Party. And now all that has changed dramatically. Now, I have one friend left in the entire town I live in. It's all changed and become so dysfunctional and exposed a lot of people for who they are. He really brought out the worst in some people. It's just been extraordinary.

I have to ask this question, because it was such a big deal. But what did you think about Caitlyn Jenner supporting your uncle? Was it wealth and taxes?
I thought her transition was amazing and brave. Then I heard her endorsement, and I put her in the category of people who are completely willing to vote against their own self-interest. She seems like a wealthy person, and wealthy people seem to do better -- not sure that's true -- by voting for Republicans.

When someone is that privileged they are protected in some ways, which goes against anyone else who might not be wealthy or a member of a minority. Wealth is the greatest divider.

Do you have a parting message to the LGBTQ+ community about your uncle?
I think it's all pretty much out there. He is exactly who he appears to be. It's not specifically to the LGBTQ community, but across the board.

The more stress he's under, the more he feels the walls are closing in, which is going to happen. It's unavoidable if we want the November election to go our way. He needs to be piled on. He will never get better and may get worse. But what form that takes and how it affects the LGBTQ+ community, I don't know. But he's been so bad to us already.

Hopefully, we only have a few months to deal with him, and then we have our work cut out for us. I would be really grateful to have a platform and to use it any way I can [to] undo some of the damage that's been done.

I was determined to tell the truth. I wasn't interested in going out and making anyone look bad. I just wanted to tell a very measured and vitally important story.

Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, published by Simon & Schuster, is now available on Amazon and wherever good books are sold.

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John Casey

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.